weather icon Clear

Arkansas Derby, virtual clash of titans pinch hit for Kentucky Derby

Updated April 30, 2020 - 6:50 pm

We won’t be singing “My Old Kentucky Home” with tears in our eyes Saturday, but racing fans will hardly be bereft on only the second first Saturday in May in 146 years without a Kentucky Derby.

With the Run for the Roses scheduled for the first Saturday in September, racing officials at Oaklawn Park seized the opportunity to move the Arkansas Derby to the vacated date with magical connotations for many horseplayers. The race drew so much interest that it will now be run in two divisions, which will be televised on Fox Sports 1 and streamed on the New York Racing Association’s YouTube channel.

But interesting though those races may be, those craving at least a whiff of roses might instead want to tune in Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. to watch a special built around Kentucky Derby traditions and memories, capped by a virtual race pitting the 13 winners of the Triple Crown against one another.

It’s a clever concept, since all of those horses won the Kentucky Derby in addition to the Preakness and Belmont stakes.

But to give credit where credit is due, the idea actually was hatched by organizers of the Grand National, a staple of steeplechase racing in England for more than 180 years. After the race was canceled by the pandemic, organizers last month staged a computer-simulated race featuring 40 horses modeled off their real-life counterparts. There was betting on the race, which was won by 18-1 shot Potter’s Corner, with profits going to the National Health Service’s charitable wing.

There won’t be betting on the “Triple Crown Showdown” between Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978), American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018).

Churchill Downs is encouraging fans to visit KentuckyDerby.com to back a horse and make a charitable donation to COVID-19 emergency relief efforts, which it will match. If you’re in a financial pinch because of the coronavirus, you can also enter for free.

Churchill line maker Mike Battaglia has installed Secretariat as the 7-2 morning line favorite.

If you’re intrigued enough to want to read more, check out the article I wrote on the race for AmericanGambler.com.

#RJhorseracing featured races

The #RJhorseracing crowd ’cappers are taking on both divisions of the $500,000 Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, a 1⅛th-mile test for 3-year-olds that will award 100 qualifying points toward entry into the Kentucky Derby to each winner and lesser points to the other three top finishers.

In the first division, the crowd ’cappers are backing the even-money morning line favorite Charlatan, who is 2-for-2 for trainer Bob Baffert but steps up into stakes company for the first time. They like Gouvernor Morris (9-2) and Basin (8-1) to fill out the trifecta.

Regular readers will know that I love to try to beat heavy favorites, but I’m going to throw in the towel and go with Charlatan. With Shooters Shoot (8-1), the only horse with enough speed to pressure him early, expected to scratch, the son of Speightstown looks long gone barring a poor break from the inside post or an intense dislike for the Oaklawn strip. I’ll use Anneau d’Or (6-1) and Gouvernor Morris to place and show.

The second division appears more competitive, but the handicapping crew is on a serious Baffert kick and thinks the silver-maned Hall of Famer will take this race as well with 5-2 morning line favorite Nadal, who is 3-for-3 in Calilfornia. They like King Guillermo (3-1) and Wells Bayou (7-2) to fill out the minor placings.

Even if I didn’t have an aversion to chalk, I’d have to try to beat Nadal. He’s won all his races on the front end but is facing more speed. I’ll use King Guillermo on top, with Farmington Road (12-1) and Silver Prospector (10-1) filling out the trifecta.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Sports Betting Spotlight Videos